One of the most impressive decorating techniques on Rose Parade floats is the floragraph, a recreation of a photograph or artwork using botanical materials glued onto a plywood backing. Hours of detailed painting and decorating achieve photographic reality on a grand scale.
Every centimeter of a Rose Parade float must be covered with vegetation of some sort, and there must not be visible gaps between. The work of adhering the tiny seeds, rice, and crushed materials is detailed and time-consuming. Photo 12 in the attached slideshow shows the difference between precise, award-winning work and sloppy work that can cost a float a coveted trophy.
Materials used for floragraphs are onion seed, poppy seed and crushed white rice, which are mixed into nine tones achieve a black-and-white photo effect, much like half-tone printing; crushed walnut, peanut and other shells, cocoa powder, sesame seed, spices and other earth-tone materials produce sepia-toned photos; and a variety of materials besides those, including cut statice, strawflower, carnations and iris create colored pictures.
The slideshow with this article explains the process of creating a floragraph in photos. It is best viewed in numerical order.
The floragraph starts with a photo, of course, and once dimensions are decided, construction begins. Plywood is cut into the proper size. For large photos, it is attached to a frame on the float. Smaller floragraphs can be completed separately from the float. Every year, the floragraphs on the Donate Life float are sent to the families after the float is dismantled.
The plywood is coated with a material that is then painted in the appropriate colors to match the photo. Dry botanicals used on floats and in the floragraphs can be glued on as early as four weeks before the parade, and volunteers come in the first four weekends in December to apply the materials.
The result is a stunning work of art that, for parade-goers and home viewers, looks like a photo mounted on a flowered float.
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